Review Summary: I won't speak at all, just to sing again.
Emma Ruth Rundle has had considerable experience as both a band leader and ensemble member. She’s played guitar in Red Sparowes, and fronted both The Nocturnes and Marriages, the latter receiving significant exposure after their recent tour with Deafheaven. However, none of these projects have given her a chance to take center stage as her debut solo album has.
Her unique vocal delivery is assuredly the focus on Some Heavy Ocean, delivering a melancholic yet driven message, in lyrics and in tonality. Her guitar provides the backbone for her voice, not showy, but interesting enough to avoid becoming a trope of repetitive 3-chord meanderings. Those elements alone could make for a solid singer-songwriter effort, but perhaps not of the quality that is presented on this effort. What really sets this album apart is the atmosphere achieved. Chris Common, Andrea Calderon, Greg Burns, and Henry Kohen all provide their talents. Along with the usual percussion, keyboards, and bass guitar, the implementation of orchestral strings, pedal steel and the heavy use of effects (on guitar and voice) not only add a fresh dimension to the sound, but serve as a dense foundation for Rundle to shine through. In addition, Common’s production work achieves a rarity in that all instruments form a more impactful sound without losing their clarity. It’s wonderful to hear every little detail and have it be a positive reinforcement to some truly engaging material.
But the real star is certainly Rundle’s voice. She has a way of bending words to her will, not adhering to the way a word should sound, but forcing it to work the way she wants it to in her music. This freedom with the English language is paired with an intriguing Irish brogue (not through heritage, but stylistic desire), that is incredibly nuanced and refreshing to hear with a sea of other singer-songwriters churning mediocrity.
With a lush and captivating backdrop of instruments, and guitar in hand, Emma Ruth Rundle has crafted a singular work to be praised, with high hopes for her future indeed.